A new gluten free restaurant certification organization has been established in Tennessee. It’s instituting a certification process for restaurants in order to help customers find safe, allergy-friendly places to eat.
Their mission is to:
“…make the world a safer and more pleasant place to eat for everyone with food allergies, intolerances, or celiac disease. We do this by highlighting restaurants that are already allergy and celiac friendly and helping more restaurants become allergy and celiac friendly.”
As anyone with celiac disease will attest, trying to find a safe place to eat out can be daunting. It’s time-consuming, often uncomfortable, and scary.
The opportunity for cross-contamination is usually immense, and the need for specific communication with your waiter and the kitchen can be intimidating and discouraging.
The idea of someone doing the screening and asking all the questions for you by way of a restaurant certification is exciting.
Researchers estimate that 32 million Americans have food allergies. The 8 major food allergens (soy, fish, wheat, milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, and shellfish) cause most of the serious reactions in the US.
But there are over 170 foods that have been documented to cause an allergic reaction. And evidently sesame is an up and coming allergen concern.
About 1% of people in the US have celiac disease. That’s over 3 million people. And while celiac disease is not an allergy (it’s an autoimmune response) it’s often lumped in with allergies when people talk about dining safety due to the extreme need for avoidance.
Part of the challenge with celiac disease is the insidiousness of cross-contamination–basically if you don’t have celiac disease, you have no idea how to avoid it because it’s everywhere!
So it’s encouraging that allergyfriendly.org was founded by someone with celiac disease and that most of the employees have food allergies, celiac diease, or a close family member with one of those conditions.
Part of allergyfriendly.org’s restaurant certification is to ensure the establishment has trained its employees on safe food preparation and allergy-safe meal choices.
They have certified 3 restaurants in the Nashville area since they stood up in 2018, but they hope to expand beyond the city soon. They are also forming a board that will include a medical professional.
It’s exciting to see more restaurants express an interest in being educated on how to safely feed people with celiac disease. It makes me hopeful that one day eating out won’t be scary or difficult.
If you enjoyed this article, check out Celiac Disease Complaint Forces Rider University to Make Dining Accommodations.